THE Tourism and Sports Ministry and the China National Tourism Administration are moving to crack down on “zero-dollar tourism” and the use of Thai nominees to skirt foreign-ownership laws.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul and Zhang Xinhong, director of the CNTA’s Bangkok office, yesterday said they would team up to reduce zero-dollar scams and crack down on local nominees who help Chinese run businesses here illegally.
Under zero-dollar schemes, tour operators offer extra-low prices to Chinese tourists travelling to Thailand, but they find there are many hidden costs once they arrive.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered Tourist Police and other authorities to suppress zero-dollar tourism and the use of nominees in order to protect travellers and the economy. Besides the use of nominees to evade the Foreign Business Act, many businesses defraud tourists and evade taxes.
Kobkarn’s ministry claims that zero-dollar scams have damaged the Thai tourism industry for more than 20 years.
She said the number of Chinese arrivals to some areas of Thailand would drop slightly for a short period after the crackdown on unscrupulous tour operators.
“Authorities have been cracking down on illegal operators and also seized properties and licences in order to [prevent] bad behaviour,” she said.
She added, however, that the number of Chinese tourists was still growing. From September 1-11, their numbers increased by 33.7 per cent compared with the same period last year. From January 1 to September 11, the Chinese market grew by 19.3 per cent, while overall foreign arrivals were up by 12.1 per cent.
The Tourist Police recently seized assets of OA Transport over the company’s allegedly inappropriate operations. The company controlled more than 3,000 tourist buses in the country.
Thailand welcomed nearly 8 million Chinese last year who injected revenue of Bt370 billion into the economy. That number is expected to surpass 10 million this year.